That time Oregon tried to close religious schools

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Over the past few years, religion in schools has been a common theme at the Supreme Court – for example, by expanding the amount of government aid allowed to go to students attending faith-based academies.

Critics say such decisions have blurred the lines between church and state. And now, those debates are in new territory, after a school board in Oklahoma approved what would be the nation’s first faith-based charter school: a virtual Catholic academy. The state’s own attorney general has filed a lawsuit against it, arguing that such a school is barred by both the federal Constitution and Oklahoma’s own.

To put this in context, Charles Russo, an education law expert at the University of Dayton, takes us back – way back. Nearly a century ago, Oregon tried to more or less ban private schools with a voter-approved measure meant to target Catholic institutions, though the Supreme Court struck down the statute. It’s a reminder of just how far the pendulum on religious schools has swung.

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Molly Jackson

Religion and Ethics Editor

A Catholic schoolroom in the U.S. around 1930. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A century ago, one state tried to close religious schools − a far cry from today, with controversial plans in place for the nation’s first faith-based charter school

Charles J. Russo, University of Dayton

In 1922, Oregon voters approved an initiative to require public school for most students ages 8-16 − but it didn’t hold up in court.

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